Fallston High's lacrosse program enjoyed a double dose of success this season when the girls and the boys teams went all the way to the state final four.
The Cougars girls (14-1), ranked No. 7 in The Baltimore Sun's Top 15 poll, reached the state Class 1A/2A semifinals for the second straight year. But they also ran into Loch Raven for the second straight year, falling, 12-3. Last year, they lost to the No. 1 Raiders in the title game.
The boys team reached the state semifinals for the first time since the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association sanctioned a true state championship three years ago. The Cougars (11-4) nearly pulled out a victory in the %J semifinal, but No. 11 Mount Hebron won in overtime, 11-10.
Despite the similarity of their seasons' outcomes, the two followed different routes to the final four.
The girls were expected to be there. Their toughest competition came from Joppatowne, but Fallston beat the Mariners three times, including once in the regional championship game.
Until they came up against Loch Raven, the Cougars were unbeaten -- even with three freshmen in the lineup. Even though they held the Raiders to their lowest offensive output of the season, the Cougars weren't quite in the Raiders' league.
"Now my kids see how the game can be played," said Fallston coach Nancy Ferguson. "Loch Raven is an exceptional team, but we have certainly played better."
The Cougars girls suffered a huge loss even before the state playoffs began when leading scorer Cindy Jenkins sprained her ankle in the final practice before the semifinal game. Ferguson said she thought her squad could compensate, but the Raiders ran out to a 9-1 lead by halftime.
Denise Sarver led the Cougars with a goal and an assist, while Katie Kunsman and Laura Rocchio also added goals. Tammy Kloiber tallied 13 saves.
Fallston boys coach John Conley is beginning to suspect he's jinxed. Conley plays for the Philadelphia Wings Major Indoor Lacrosse team, which lost the Major Indoor Lacrosse League championship game by the same score as in the Cougars' loss.
Against Mount Hebron, the Cougars led almost the entire game. Jason Haslbeck scored his fourth goal of the game with 1:52 left in regulation to give the Cougars a 10-9 lead.
A controversial call in overtime helped the Vikings score their game-winning goal. Fallston picked up a 30-second technical foul when players stepped onto the field to celebrate what they thought was the winning goal.
The ball appeared to go in the net, and the referee on the back line raised his hands indicating a goal. When the ball rolled away from the side of the net, a Mount Hebron player scooped up the ball, and Fallston got a penalty. With the Cougars playing man-down, the Vikings got their game-winning goal from Jason Vettori.
"That's not the reason for the loss, but it really puts your back against the wall when they put you in the box," said Conley.
Despite the loss, the Cougars had a great year. They beat North Harford, 16-4, in the regional playoffs. That was the highlight of their season.
"Had we played anybody in the state in our class that night, we would have beat 'em," said Conley. "That's how well we played that night."